A diagnosis is a terrifying, yet relieving, confirmation. Confirmation that life shouldn’t be this hard. Many wait years until they are categorised by mental health professionals. And for many people, such as myself, a diagnosis can be a gateway to another difficult and long path.
Earlier this year, I was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It was surprising and confusing for me, as the psychiatrist seemed reluctant to diagnose me with this “severe” mental illness. Yet, perhaps this reluctance and my confusion only reflects the stigma and lack of knowledge about those suffering and living with the ever-elusive BPD. I was initially misdiagnosed with depression (a characteristic that many with BPD struggle with) and as such, I began to climb my way up the ladder of support from mild to intensive and back again.
Complex trauma, increasing stress and lack of purpose and knowledge of who I was led me to a workplace breakdown, attempted suicide and hospitalisation. Treatment in hospital is generally okay, but I was shocked to see the change in attitude towards me after my diagnosis. I was quickly discharged; with three helpline numbers and the promise that someone would eventually be in touch. It seems that BPD is the black sheep of mental health.
I felt an immense pressure to take on a lot, so I could contradict the stereotypes that were newly attached to my name. I tried to focus on staying positive and seeing my discharge as a positive step in the right direction, but I still felt very confused with my diagnosis, as I was only given one sheet of information with the “signs of BPD” and its controversial status within the psychiatric profession. Perhaps this is because there seems to be so little research on this particular personality disorder.
So, I took to the internet and unfortunately, what I found didn’t provide me with much hope.
We are considered: ‘controversial, manipulative, angry, attention seeking, self-destructive, unknown and suicidal beings.’ ‘Untreatable.’ ‘Resource consuming’ – ironic seeing as the few resources offered to us are rarities. When explaining my illness to friends, and even nurses, they tell me that they simply don’t understand.
The only way we can move forward in reducing stigma towards people like me, is to hit the nail on the head; to make it abundantly clear that this is not something I have chosen. I did not choose to be ill. I have a past, but I also have a future. I had a fully functional life before I was in hospital. My illness lived silently, and raved, alongside me.
But I am NOT Borderline Personality Disorder. I am the girl who worked hard. I held a job. I laughed. I have friends. I have a family. I have a future. I have a place at university. I had a mental health crisis. But that should not define me or the support I receive.